Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Phoblog Entertainment Report: Sorry, Lizzie

I'm not against remakes. I have no problem with creative or even standard reproductions of beloved - or even beliked - works. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad, sometimes they're only scantly related to the original, and sometimes their marketing departments should go back to Frosh Lit.

Let me explain.

I've recently seen several TV spots for the latest version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. One wonders why anyone would remake the tale after the BBC's miniseries established Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy game over, case closed, hands down, slam dunk, stop looking, in 1995. Sure it's 6 hours, but for most (women) the complaint isn't that it's too long, but rather, that it's too short.

Another reason to ditch the move version: the lukewarm run of Gwennie P's Emma adaptation a few years back which was, I will forever maintain, far less accomplished than Clueless. (Yes, Clueless, watch it again.)

But fine - it's cool - Austen rocks, and she's one of the few pre-20th century female authors to which many freshmen are exposed.

Here's my real problem, however: the trailer. And actually, I might have to revise this post in a bit because I'm really looking for the TV ad and I can't double check that this trailer commits the same sin - but work with me.

Though the film's tag line, as listed on its imdb page, is a reasonable: "Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can't be without" the TV spot would make both our Lizzie Bennet and Jane Austen roll in their graves.

In it, the conflict is sketched as lower class Lizzie being kept from her love Darcy by the normal forces of evil in British period flicks: class, scary old matriarchs, fog on the moors, whatever. Keira Knightly looks woeful in every shot. Her love can't love her back. What is she to do?

[insert Family Feud buzzer sound here.]

Wrong!

Those who have read the book - hell, those who have read the title - should know it's not that simple. The players could easily be reversed with Darcy being mopey as Keira-Lizzy shuns him. These kids are both pretty pig-headed, that's the point.

Turning Elizabeth Bennet - a strong, eloquent, witty, savvy, killer of a character into a stock longing-gal-on-screen, even if it's just for the commercial, is just wrong. And it sells a completely different story to movie goers. The point of the story is less about societal pressures screwing up their relationship than it is about two people who use societal pressures to excuse their own unreasonable behavior, their pride, and their - wait for it - prejudice. Don't hate the game, it's the players who have to learn in Austen's world.

It's possible that the Bennet gals are slyly undermined from the books famous opening line - but more likely, Austen is loyal to her strong women and if she sometimes cloaks her go-getters in culturally appropriate battles it just proves her smarts.. That television commercial is an afront to Austen lovers.

I'll watch the movie, which is likely truer to the text than the ad, but one wonders why now, when Austen's once cutting edge narratives are commonplace, the studio decided to dumb things down. Would a truer telling really have repelled the audience?

Of course, it still won't have Colin Firth.

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